USAU Board Member Henry Thorne On Benefits, Costs Of Pro Leagues

USA Ultimate board member Henry Thorne left a long comment on Ken Kaminski’s most recent filing in his Ultimate 2030 series. See Thorne’s thoughts on the pro leagues, and particularly the effect of the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (two of his sons, Alex and Max, played for the team last season).

Ken, thanks for bothering to organize such a cohesive set of information about this issue. And our community here in Pittsburgh is at the “submissive – 0% effort” you describe. And it’s really disappointing and I’m hoping that changes.

We had the advent of a pro league here for the first time last year and it brought about a wonderful reawakening of Pittsburgh Ultimate that will drive growth in a fantastic way. The old community of ultimate players came out in droves both to get together and see each other again, and to enjoy the young talent they simply hadn’t ever been able to see because they’d never played a competitive game in Pittsburgh before. We had five hundred plus to game after game, youth seeing ultimate as 100% legit ’cause they never saw it any other way, and new folks exposed to the sport like never before. Collateral benefit will be access to fields because school athletic directors now see it as legit.

So I’m thrilled.

But then I think about the damage and I’m sad.

If Pitt women win the National championship (a long shot but maybe), no one will know them, they will not be celebrated, and they will not become role models, because the stage that has been set for Pittsburgh ultimate is 100% male. Granted, there was no stage at all before, but, still, this is the opposite of what we’ve been working on for decades as USAU and will increase the gap between men and women by a lot, a gap we work so hard to shrink.

And the loss of our honor system, even with all of its flaws, is just sad to see. There’s no question the wrestling you have to do with your morality in our self-officiated system is good for you, and it’s just lost. There’s an option to remember to do the right thing that occasionally gets invoked but the players aren’t forced to face right and wrong because the ref takes care of it. And it’s just a great differentiator for our sport that seems to be unnecessarily lost. I completely agree with Ken, that while it does exist in other sports, we are the leaders of it and have already caused other sports to take notice and consider how it might make their sports better. Losing the initiative on that just makes me sad.

So yea, while thrilled with the big bump the local pro team has given the sport here in the ‘Burgh, I’m really bummed our community isn’t putting any pressure on the team and league to not drop our ideals so easily.

Full disclosure, I’m a long term USAU board member.

RELATED: Thorne Calls For Mixed Gender Pro League

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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